2011 FORMULA 1 AIRTEL GRAND PRIX OF INDIA
- New Delhi
- 21.5 million
- Indian Rupee
- First Grand Prix
- GMT +5.5
- Hindi, English, Urdu and Punjabi
- Hindu 80.5%, Muslim 13.4%, Christian and other 6.1%
- Visa / Passport Requirements
Empires have come and gone, but Delhi has remained. It’s a fascinating fusion of the crumbling, narrow lanes of Old Delhi - once the capital of Islamic India - the tree-lined imperial avenues of the British Raj-built New Delhi and the chaotic modernity of a growing metropolis. With one foot in the past and another very firmly in the future, this city of cities hopes to rule the road too with its very own Grand Prix.
“Delhi is the buzzing capital of a buzzing country,” says Indian driver Karun Chandhok. “It is a great modern Indian city with good roads, hotels, shopping malls, parks, markets and cultural sights. I have always loved to visit there since I was a kid. My dad used to take me with him when he was going for business.”
Staged on a purpose-built 5.125-kilometre circuit, on the outskirts of the city’s hustle and bustle in the Noida suburb, the race should rival the best. Designed by Hermann Tilke, with extensive input from the Formula One teams, the track features a raft of interesting features and gradient changes, and is a worthy rival to more established venues.
Did you know? At 72.5 metres tall, the Quatab Minar is the tallest brick tower in the world and you need to climb up 399 steps to get to the top.
Delhi is a city on the move and it couldn’t be better connected. The Indira Gandhi International Airport, to the west of the city, is the major gateway. International visitors will arrive at the newly-opened Terminal Three, which is expected to handle almost 35 million passengers a year. The much smaller Safdarjung Airport is still in use too.
For public transport aficionados, buses are best avoided to get into (and around) the city, but Delhi's metro system is one of the most modern and efficient in the world and a high-speed line from the Indira Gandhi airport will be in place well ahead of the Grand Prix. Trains, hire cars, pre-paid taxis and, of course, auto rickshaws are popular alternatives, so keep some change handy. The track’s location at Noida is a 45-minute journey by train from the city centre and an hour's drive from the airport.
Eat. Sampling some of Delhi’s diverse and iconic street food is a must do. The best stalls can be found in the Jama Masjid area, Dilli Haat, and at the Chandini Chowk market. Try papri chaat (fried pastry with chickpeas, potatoes, and a yoghurt-like sauce), golgappas (fried dough filled with chickpeas and spicy potatoes) and for the sweet-toothed there’s joyful Jalebi (rounds of sugary flavoured batter). Avoid ‘Delhi belly’ by following the crowd and watching where’s popular with the locals.
But the city’s culinary repertoire stretches well beyond street food. For delicious Mughal style food, the Karim Hotel offers some of the best, while Chor Bizarre - with outposts in downtown Delhi, near the track at Noida and London’s Mayfair - aims to mimic a ‘thieves market’ and offers delicious Kashmiri cuisine.
“The food in Delhi is also outstanding and it has a great mix of the past and modern India with New and Old Delhi,” says Chandhok. “It's definitely worth checking out the markets. Khan Chacha's in Khan market is a good one for a lower budget as is Pindi on Pandara road. For the high end, Bukhara at ITC Maurya hotel is widely recognised to be the best Indian restaurant in the world but you need to book a table as the queue is huge normally!”
Where to go?
You might have guessed already, but in Delhi you’re spoiled for choice. Visit the massive sandstone Red Fort to see Mughal majesty at its best, enjoy a breather at the massive Lotus-shaped Bahai temple, be wowed by the Indian art on display at the National Museum, or wander around the Lodhi gardens. Rashtrapathi Bhavan (residence of India’s President) and India Gate (a memorial for the soldiers who fought in World War One) should also be on your itinerary.
Delhi is such a cultural powerhouse, it would easy to forget to go shopping - but don’t, as Delhi is as much a paradise for shoppers as it is for history buffs. Connaught Place has plenty to attract, with both Janpath’s Indian craft emporiums and underground shopping centre Palika Bazar nearby. The narrow Bazaars of Old Delhi are equally enthralling, as are the boutiques of the Hauz Khas district.
“You'll see some incredible architecture,” says Chandhok. “Check out the markets - either Khan Market, or the South extension market, are great for shopping and trying out local food. If travelling with kids, Lodhi Gardens is a great place to relax in the evenings and if there's a cricket match on that week, then you must go to Feroze-Shah Kotla Cricket ground to soak up the atmosphere.”
Where to stay?
From deluxe top-end hotels and international chains to inexpensive guest houses, Delhi boasts accommodation to suit everybody’s tastes. The area around Connaught Place is a favoured haunt, thanks to its close proximity to the main shopping areas and tourist attractions. Five-star hotels include the Lutyens-designed Imperial, Le Meridien, The Metropolitan Nikko, and the Intercontinental. The south of the city, handy for the circuit, also has many comfortable places to stay, including the Park Royal and The Surya. Don’t forget India’s two well-known Indian hotel chains, The Taj and The Oberoi, which are also worthy options, while for those on a tighter budget - and on the lookout for a home-cooked meal - a government initiative has devised a list of vetted ‘friendly families’ willing to take in tourists.
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Delhi itself has more than enough to offer, but for an extended stay look further afield to experience even more of India at its best. To the north, the picture-perfect villages and awe-inspiring views of the Himalayan ranges await, while the exquisite Taj Mahal is just 200 kilometres to the south. Several wildlife reserves can also be found close to Delhi, with the Sariska tiger reserve and Sultanpur bird sanctuary two highlights.
“Agra and the home of the Taj Mahal is only a drive away with the circuit actually on the way from Delhi to Agra,” says Chandhok. “Jaipur is also only four hours away and is one of my favourite places with the exotic palaces and heritage properties. Shimla is a famous 'hill station' just a few hours away in the mountains if you want somewhere a bit cooler.”
Cricket may be the national obsession, but India’s interest in motorsport is growing rapidly. There are a few notable circuits in the Asian country including Mumbai’s Hiranandani Kart Track and Chennai’s 3.7-kilometre Irungattukottai Circuit, where hopefuls can try to emulate Indian racers Chandhok and former Jordan, now HRT driver Narain Karthikeyan.